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Published on July 21st, 2011 | by Christian Cawley

Eccleston Explains Departure!

A recent media event attended by Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston saw the former Time Lord chat openly about the reasons behind his shock departure from the show back in 2005 after rave reviews following its return.

If you have been keeping tabs on Eccleston’s previous replies on this subject – something that we’ve tried to keep tabs on – you might not find anything completely new here.

However, this is by far the longest answer that he seems to have given on the matter.

The following passage is a transcription of Christopher Eccleston’s answer to a question as to why he left Doctor Who, asked at an acting master class at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, as featured at (the marvellously named),

I left Doctor Who, because I could not get along with the senior people. I left, because of politics. I did not see eye-to-eye, with them. I didn’t agree with the way things were being run. I didn’t like the culture that had grown up, around the series. So, I left. I felt, over a principle. I thought to remain, which would have made me a lot of money and given me huge visibility, the price I would have had to pay, was to eat a lot of shit. I’m not being funny about that. I didn’t want to do that and, it comes to the art of it, in a way. I feel that if you run your career and-we are vulnerable as actors and, we are constantly humiliating ourselves auditioning. But, if you allow that to go on, on a grand scale. You will loose, whatever it is about you and, it will be present in your work.

If you allow your desire to be successful and visible and financially secure. If you allow that, to make you throw shades on your parents, on your upbringing, then you’re knackered. You’ve got to keep something back, for yourself. Because, it’ll be present in your work. A purity or an idealism is essential, or, you’ll become-you’ve got to have standards, no matter how hard work that is. So, it makes it hard road, really. You know. It’s easy to find a job, when you’ve got no morals, you’ve got nothing to be compromised you can go ‘yeah, yeah. That doesn’t matter. That director can bully that prop man and, I won’t say anything about it’. But, then when that director comes to you and says ‘I think you should play it like this’. You’ve surely got to go ‘How can I respect you, when you behave like that?’

So, that’s why I left. My face didn’t fit and, I’m sure they were glad to see the back of me. The important thing is that I succeeded. It was a great part. I loved playing him. I loved connecting with that audience. Because I’ve always acted for adults and the suddenly, your acting for children. Who are far more tasteful, they will not be bullshitted. It’s either good, or it’s bad. They don’t schmooze at after show parties, with cocktails.

We’ll never know just who Eccleston is referring to as “the senior people” but it is rather wonderful that he has taken the time to give such a well thought-out answer without putting any blame on any individuals, something that is extremely important and increasingly rare these days.


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About the Author


A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

10 Responses to Eccleston Explains Departure!

  1. avatar krumstets says:

    What I want to know is would he come back as a one off in the future?

    • I think we would all like to know :)

      Not sure how his intensity would sit alongside the more jovial characteristics of his successors, however… (that’s a general observation, not a declaration that Tennant and Smith can’t “do intense”)

  2. avatar Bob James says:

    I think we’ll have to wait and see. Maybe enough time will have gone by, and, with a respectful approach from Steven Moffat, Chris would be willing to come back for a one-off performance. We can be assured that the script will be great, so that’s sure to be an added enticing factor. I am holding out hope, but if the Five Doctors could go on without Tom Baker’s active participation (though I agree with Moffat’s statement of shame on Tom for that, and the special certainly did go on without him), a 50th Anniversary Special can go on without Christopher Eccleston, even though we would surely wish him there.

  3. avatar vaguely says:

    Good god, what a luvvie that man is (listen to the barbed commentaries for the Cracker DVDs for further illustration).

  4. avatar Rick Lundeen says:

    “Senior people” in that scenario might mean Julie, Russell and Phil but more likely, some of the directors he worked with while on the series. I remember that in the early days, it was a scheduling disaster behind the scenes with them always falling behind until they finally got a handle on it. Pressure was on and there may have been some fighting within the crew because of it and that may have sparked the departure. But, with a total change of regime, anything’s possible. Chris probably wouldn’t come back unless it was for a charity situation and even that’s iffy.

  5. avatar Scott says:

    In other interviews he was more specific about the “culture which had grown up” which from what I gather was simply the fact the show was a lot of hard work – for the actors but especially for the crew. That to me is a pretty crap reaction. The crew (and anyone else) was free to leave the job if it was too hard, or the conditions too rough. No one was forced to work on Doctor Who.

  6. avatar Scott says:

    Which of course Eccelston proved as he himself left.

  7. avatar mabtycoon says:

    I cant imagine just how insufferable RTD must be in person. I simply cant stand the man, his arrogance, his utter, utter self indulgent, self-loving, me-the-magnificent attitude must really grate when he’s standing right in front of you.
    I didnt like Eccelstons Doctor, it was all over the place in the way that Matt Smith is but without the acting ability to back it up – but I respect him for this, nothing but kudos Chris!

  8. avatar Cristina says:

    Things are kind of changed now, Chris.
    Just please come back…

  9. avatar Johan says:

    mabtycoon – Russell is actually a very nice bloke.

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